Ugly Forum Software Resembles Yahoo In 1996 (LOL!)

When a user lands on the main page of a forum he or she wants to know what’s hot right now. That’s why we are baffled by forum platforms that insist on showing a list of sub-forums instead. This hierarchical, top-down format reminds us of the way “search directories” initially tried to organize the information across the web.

You can see that the forum platform pictured below divides everything into countless sub forums. This is eerily similar to the screen cap from Yahoo that dates back to the mid-1990s.

When the forum/sub forum paradigm is put in this context, it looks ugly. It also looks ineffective compared to modern approaches for organizing large volumes of information. If you agree there is a better way, we’d love to hear from you.

Yahoo – 1996

Forum with sub-forums – 2014

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The Melting Pot; Or, Why Sub-Forums Are So Passé

Most forums default to the classic “forum, sub-forum paradigm” whereby threads are divvied up by topics such as “News & Announcements”, “Tech Support”, “The Sports Zone”, “Off Topic Discussion”, etc. We believe this approach is flawed.

We’ve found that what determines a thread’s relevance is not it’s category but it’s title and content. That’s why Ninja Post forum software defaults to a “melting pot” approach whereby ALL threads are ranked based on a combination of their popularity (How many replies does the thread have?) and their decay (How old is the thread?). The more popular and more recent a thread is, the more likely it is to stay at the top of the board.

It’s not unusual for users to feel paralyzed when processing an array of sub-forums. Let’s say a user comes to your forum for the first time. Rather than going straight to a list of recent threads, he or she is presented with a list of sub-forums. Where should he or she begin if he or she wants to post a new thread? Should the thread go in the most popular sub-forum that everyone reads or should it go in another sub-forum that is less popular but more appropriate? This feeling of indecisiveness is one that Ninja Post prevents.

In another example, let’s say you run a forum dedicated to sports. You probably have really popular sub-forums dedicated to Football, Basketball, and Baseball, and less popular sub-forums dedicated to other sports like Golf, Bowling, and Ping Pong. Well, if a really sensational Bowling story came about it deserves attention and it should not be pigeonholed in a sub-forum that no one visits.

Ninja Post’s approach to sub-forums is similar to Google’s decision to avoid using folders in Gmail. Like Gmail, we too allow users to tag threads, which makes it possible to filter threads based on a given topic, should the need arise.

We believe that our ultra simple “relevance algorithm” which ranks threads based on popularity and decay, coupled with tags and a fast and effective search functionality is a better way to organize the community’s discussion in lieu of sub-forums. This approach fits snugly with our desire to simplify and improve the user experience.

The Melting Pot

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